WRAP and the circular economy (theory)

WRAP and the circular economy

Reaching Net Zero faster

45% of global emissions can only be tackled by changing the way we make and consume products and food.

The way we use and make our products is a great contributor to climate change and biodiversity loss, and there is an urgent need now for concerted action across nations, businesses, and homes.

Renewable energy will only take us so far towards Net Zero climate targets, because so much carbon is embedded in our food and consumer goods. We need a rapid shift away from the linear ‘take, make, dispose’ industrial model of the last century to a new, circular economy.

Our biggest untapped opportunity is to change the way we make, use, and design products to cut our carbon emissions much further and faster.

What is a circular economy?


Circularity transforms our throwaway economy into one where we eliminate waste, circulate resources, and adopt nature-positive, low carbon, resource-efficient systems and actions.

In the circular economy, instead of taking resources from the earth, using them once, and disposing of them in landfill, we keep them in use for as long as possible. We make sure that we gain the maximum benefit from them while reducing negative environmental impacts.

Circularity offers the potential to ‘build back better’, bringing new jobs, healthy lifestyles, and green growth. In a circular economy we reduce our impacts on nature and climate, while ensuring that economies thrive, and citizens lead healthy, sustainable lifestyles.

WRAP is developing short policy briefs that pull out new nation-specific data on carbon savings, reduced biodiversity loss, and economic growth benefits from more implementation of the circular economy. These briefs also provide suggestions for new nation-specific policy interventions that can help deliver these benefits. Initial briefs are being developed for Denmark, Sweden, Italy, India, Indonesia, Wales, Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland.

In Sweden (for example), it is estimated that by implementing policies that drive a circular economy, 68,000 jobs could be created by 2030, with the majority of these in remanufacturing.

As well as developing policy briefs that highlight the benefits of the circular economy by nation, WRAP can help develop messaging that resonates with policymakers and provide a range of examples of the circular economy in action.

What does circularity look like in practice?


Global food systems contribute 30% of global emissions, with a third of food produced being lost or wasted.

Circular food systems feed more people with less land. They promote healthy, diverse, and plant-based diets, and eliminate food loss and waste by re-distributing surplus food. Soil health is also protected by switching to nature-positive agricultural practices, and food by-products are used to create bio-based fertilisers and other useful products.

Read case study examples of the circular economy being applied to the food system.


8% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from clothing and footwear.

A circular economy for fashion and textiles aims to cut carbon and environmental impacts by designing out manufacturing waste, increasing the use of recycled and recyclable materials, and extending the life of garments. It also creates new types of fashion businesses such as hire, lease, and repair services. Fashion, apparel, and homewares businesses around the world are already piloting new circular approaches and seeing the benefits of circularity.

Read case study examples of the circular economy being applied within the fashion and textiles sector.


3% of emissions come from plastic packaging – more than the 2.5% contribution from global aviation.

In a circular economy, problematic plastics are eliminated, and products and packaging are designed and made with recycled materials. They are also easily collected, sorted, and recycled into new items. New business models and innovation reduce the amount of packaging on supermarket shelves.

Read case study examples of the circular economy being applied within the plastics sector.

You can also visit the One Planet Network website to see Sustainable Consumption and Production initiatives listed in their database.

How is WRAP helping to develop a circular economy?


Discover how WRAP is helping to develop a circular food system


Discover how WRAP is helping to develop a circular economy for textiles


Discover how WRAP is helping to develop a circular economy for plastics

Delivering a circular, Net Zero future – a role for everyone

To help put the world on a trajectory to deliver a Net Zero future, we need to accelerate the move to a more sustainable, resource-efficient circular economy. WRAP has a track record in delivering sustainable business initiatives across food, textiles, and plastics, and is working with governments and businesses around the globe on the ‘how’ as well as the ‘why’ of circularity.

Governments and policymakers can incorporate the circular economy into climate change strategies by:

  • keeping circular economy high on the agenda;
  • providing regulatory support to circular businesses to thrive;
  • adopting green procurement policies;
  • incentivising businesses; and
  • investing in infrastructure and citizen behaviour change campaigns.

WRAP provides guidance for policymakers including the short nation-specific policy briefs on circular economy benefits, and our programmes for transforming food, textiles, and plastics can be adapted to meet differing national needs.

International Non-Government Organisations can continue to work together in partnership to help create learnings and evidence that promotes circular economy action, thereby creating a clearer and more consistent voice.

Businesses can collaborate within their sectors to move to circular models through pilot and scaling up circular initiatives, influencing and encouraging citizens to change their behaviour, adopting innovative technology for circularity, and influencing governments.

Investors can mobilise funds for infrastructure by supporting innovation and de-risking the move to a circular approach. Through investment, it is possible to keep resources in use for as long as possible – resulting in both environmental and commercial benefits – as demonstrated by the Circular Economy Fund in Wales. Find out more.

Academics and innovators can participate in sector collaborations, providing expertise, creativity, and technical solutions to overcome the challenges of circular business. In Wales, for example, WRAP is working in collaboration with over 20 organisations to showcase how manufacturers can overcome barriers to increasing the use of recycled materials. Find out more.

Citizens can support circular businesses and rethink how they use and consume products with help from WRAP’s campaign resources: